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Daily Devotional • February 23

Pamela Lewis
Wisdom over Worry
A Reading from Psalm 37:1-18

1 Do not fret because of the wicked;
    do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
    live in the land and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light
 and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
 over those who carry out evil devices.
8 Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.
   Do not fret — it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more
   though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
 and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
 and gnash their teeth at them,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
 for he sees that their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bow
 to bring down the poor and needy,
  to kill those who walk uprightly;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
  and their bows shall be broken.
16 Better is a little that the righteous person has
 than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
 but the Lord upholds the righteous.
18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
  and their heritage will abide forever.

Evil is real, and in this gloriously uplifting psalm David never denies its existence. He was subject to evildoers, and he committed evil acts as well. But David gives us wisdom-informed ways to cultivate the right spiritual attitudes towards combating the ungodly. David’s wisdom developed over his lifetime, to which he refers in verses 25-26, and that truth gives this psalm its convincing force.

We must first abandon the wrong attitudes toward evil people by ceasing to fret over or envy them. We should never envy evil people, as it is patently sinful. Fret and envy must be supplanted by faith that the ungodly will someday meet their defeat. The key to this confidence is doing good and trusting in God, who wants only what is good for his own. 

David also advises making a full commitment to the Lord, which will entail entrusting everything to his control and guidance. For contemporary Christians living in the Western world, who value personal autonomy, this may prove challenging; but commitment to God will mean realigning our ways with his.

Cultivating stillness and patience, which are specific forms of rest, are other important practices. When silent, we are released from the need to verbalize our self-defense and can devote our spirits to waiting for God’s help. And while it may seem counterintuitive to see meekness as a helpful weapon to deal with the wicked (a promise which Jesus will make in the Sermon on the Mount), God’s battles are carried out with calm faith and humility.

It may take time, and the righteous may have to endure the machinations of the wicked. But David makes strong arguments for spiritual perseverance and for trusting that the Lord will have the last word.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, New York, she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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